Engine oil is an essential part of any vehicle. It helps protect the engine against wear, prevents corrosion, reduces friction, and keeps contaminants and debris from clogging the system. An oil leak may seem to be more of an annoyance than an issue at first, but low oil levels can lead to a stalled or even damaged engine, and can cause serious consequences in a vehicle’s performance, which is why it should be addressed immediately in order to solve the problem quickly.
Fixing an oil leak, however, may actually be the easiest part. Oil leaks can sometimes be difficult to find due to factors such as build up of road grime, hard-to-reach components, or small internal leaks which lead to a gradual drain in fluid levels. If you’re interested in a career in the automotive industry and want to learn more about how to locate the source of an oil leak, read on to find out more.
Automotive Technology Training Can Help Mechanics Identify Leaking Fluid
If a car comes into the garage with a reported oil leak, one of the first things a professional with automotive technology training should do is investigate the leak to determine if it is actually engine oil or another substance. Washer fluid appears blue, automatic transmission and power steering fluid may be red or even brown, and antifreeze can be a variety of colours, depending on the brand. Typically, engine oil will be black or amber-coloured, and may have a gritty or congealed appearance if it hasn’t been replaced in a while.
Auto Mechanics Know to Trace a Leak
Once you’ve identified the leaking fluid, your next step should be to find where the leak is coming from. Conducting a visual inspection is an important component of automotive careers, and will help you locate leaks. A good place to start is, of course, beneath the hood.
Leaking oil may follow a twisting path as it travels through the engine, so when tracing the leak it’s usually best to start at the highest point. Using a flashlight, try to conduct a thorough visual inspection as you look for signs of fresh oil—typically areas which are noticeably wet or shiny. If there doesn’t appear to be a leak on the top half of the engine that is accessible through the hood, you should move your inspection to the lower part of the engine.
If you suspect the leak may be coming from below, you can place newspaper or an absorbent material underneath the car, which can give you a better idea of which area the leak is coming from. You can also use a flashlight to help you find the source more conclusively.
Understanding the Common Causes for Oil Leaks Can Help You Find the Source
As a car ages and the engine takes on more wear, some common maintenance problems involving engine oil may occur. There are some areas where oil leaks can be more expected than others. These include the oil pan, front and rear crankshaft seals, timing cover, and cam seals, among others, and checking these areas first can often help you quickly find the source of an oil leak.
Sometimes, oil leaks can be found in areas of an engine which are the most pressurized, such as the oil filter seal. An improperly attached oil filter or drain plug may lead to an oil leak due to the pressure an engine creates while it’s running. Natural wear on the seals in an engine can even lead to multiple oil leaks, so it’s also a good idea for auto mechanics to check for a loose gasket joint or O-ring seal. Engine oil also deteriorates in quality as it ages, and can also accumulate dirt and debris, which can cause further wear on gaskets and seals, which means that recommending consistent maintenance to customers is a good way to help them avoid problems with leaks in the future.
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